Development of API and visualisation tools to discover post-Covid changes in energy consumption

This project focusses on energy consumption and waste/recycling in UK households. It aims to discover the ways consumers engage in energy sourcing and use and waste/recycling activities while mapping the differing views and rationales for consumer decisions in relation to waste and energy use.

Overview

It is widely recognised that our micro- and macro-economic interactions have fundamentally shifted during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the nature and extent of that shift, its wider impact, and how to best approach Covid-19 recovery in future remains unclear. The project aims to provide evidence-based answers to these problems by identifying salient conceptual patterns in more than 15 million words of diary-like narratives (known as Directives) submitted to Mass Observation Project (2010-2021) (MOP). Concept Analytics Lab will produce a report on emerging challenges for Covid-19 recovery in areas of climate change with a focus on energy consumption and recycling in UK households 2010-2021. Although this collaborative work focuses on economic recovery from the pandemic in the area of energy consumption, the tools developed in this project can be further used to support research and inform recovery in further areas such as health, education, social policy and creative industries. The outcomes will enable the change the pace of society’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19 in terms of climate change by identifying key opportunities in the areas of energy use and waste/recycling.  

Project description

Since the early 1990s the energy sector has been undergoing a series of transformations motivated by an umbrella of needs accelerated by climate change. However, it was not until the Covid-19 times that we see the energy sectors having to shift focus from the macro-economic contexts to include local and especially household energy consumption. Apart from available metrics of energy bills and household spending of disposable income, there are range of household decisions on and activities involving waste and energy use which are invisible to external surveys.

This project focusses on energy consumption and waste/recycling in the UK households. It aims to discover the ways consumers engage in energy sourcing and use, waste/recycling activities while mapping differential views and rationale for consumer decisions in relation to waste and energy use. The need to accomplish this aim is even more urgent now since we have observed non-temporary behaviour changes across different social domains since the Covid-19 pandemic (see outcomes of Dr Robinson's HEIF 2021 project, 'The Great Disconnect', 2021) and businesses lack the knowledge of how these lifestyle adaptations relate to waste and energy use.

In this context, Africa New Energies (ANE) approached Concept Analytics Lab to help them find changes in consumer’s energy use and waste/recycling habits and activities in the UK. ANE is a London-based business with offices across South Africa whose core business is energy consumption and provision, especially new sources of clean energy. With regards to their UK operations, they want to find out

  • time of activity and associated energy use in UK households
  • if Covid-19 has changed the timing of these activities
  • if attitudes towards recycling have changed
  • if the organic content of waste has changed with Covid19 (for example, as people eat out less and are consuming more food at home and throwing out more or nor?)
  • differential mapping of the above activities and attitudes across regions in the UK and socio-demographics
  • differential mapping of the above activities and attitudes across time, especially pre- and post/during pandemic

The project aims to provide evidence-based answer to these problems by identifying salient conceptual patterns in more than 15 million words of diary-like narratives (known as Directives) submitted to Mass Observation Project (2010-2021) (MOP). Concept Analytics Lab will produce a report on emerging challenges for Covid-19 recovery in areas of climate change with a focus on energy consumption and recycling in UK households 2010-2021.

Timeline and funding

Timeline

March 2022-July 2022

Funding

HEIF fund co-sponsored by SSRP (£29,898)

Activities

The proposed collaboration will develop computational tools following the proof of concept developed from the 'Post-COVID visualisation tool to analyse socio-economic and demographic data in the UK' project funded by the HEIF 2021 round in which Robinson (PI) collaborated with ANE.

Expected outcomes and impacts

Key to the project is enabling recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. It is widely recognised that our micro- and macro-economic interactions have fundamentally shifted during Covid-19. However, the nature and extent of that shift, its wider impact, and how to best approach Covid-19 recovery in future remains unclear. It is even uncertain what trends and development to look out for as many newly developed ways of seeing the post-pandemic world may have not been labelled with a term/word. Therefore, the challenge addressed in this project is to extract unknown conceptualisations that will navigate the future Covid-19 recovery while all we have access to are present-day narratives.

The project aims to develop:

  • a searchable map of Covid-19 pandemic and post-pandemic thinking. The Map of Covid Thinking  (visualisation tool populated by processed MO data) will present usage of patterns of concepts (words) as a heatmap of Great Britain (each narrative is linked to a postcode). This map will have functionality to filter concept data through different combinations of socio-demographic metadata. Thus, the heatmap may present the concept distribution for e.g.  younger females who live in Midlands or for e.g. married professionals.
  • a searchable database of pre- Covid-19 and Covid-19 narratives Mass Observation Corpus (MOC) (via Sketchengine Software).

The project will apply both tools to provide the required research evidence by: 

  • identifying key concepts shaping energy-related practices of adults in England across two time points in (2010-19) and (2020-21) - to be achieved primarily by corpus linguistic analysis of MOC
  • mapping users’ salient conceptualisations of energy-related behaviours across a range of socio-demographic characteristics - to be achieved by sociolinguistic analysis of MOC, and by analysis of The Map of Covid-19 Thinking

The team

Where we worked

United Kingdom.